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How To Create a Great Business Name

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A great name is the beginning of a great brand. It should be memorable and create a certain feeling when heard. Here's a quick how-to on creating one and making sure it's not already used.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: A few hours

Here's How:

  1. Brainstorm. Think about how you want people to feel when they hear the name. Write down the words on paper and then categorize them by primary meaning.
  2. Relate. Think about related words and phrases that evoke the feelings you want. Hit the thesaurus and find all the synonyms for your words and phrases.
  3. Relate more. Find out the Greek and Latin translations of your words. Figure out what colors, gemstones, plants, animals, etc., relate to your words.
  4. Experiment. Start playing with combinations of your various words and partial words. Don't be judgmental now - just make a list.
  5. Reflect. Review your list and just give some thought to each name. How does it make you feel when you hear it?
  6. Communicate. Go over the list with someone you trust. Have them tell you how each name makes them feel, and how memorable they think it is.
  7. Prioritize. Throw out any that just don't fit and make a prioritized list of the rest.
  8. Check trademarks. Make sure no one is using that name in your line of business. You may be able to use the name in a completely different business, but be aware that it may create confusion for both you and them.
  9. Check domain names. You want to make sure that an appropriate domain name is available. You want YourCompanyName.com, of course. If that's not available, you may want to reconsider.
  10. Search the internet. Even if someone doesn't have the domain, you still want to see what else is out there that has the same name. That doesn't mean you don't use it if you find something, but you need to know.
  11. Check company names. If you're planning to incorporate, check with the Secretary of State (or other appropriate office outside the U.S.) of the state you're planning to incorporate in.
  12. Check assumed names. For sole proprietors, check for local assumed names (also known as DBA). In the U.S., you check this with the County Clerk.
  13. Stake your claim! Register your assumed name or file your incorporation papers right away. Also, start using either TM (trademark) or SM (service mark). You do NOT have to register them to use them.
  14. Get the domain(s). Find an inexpensive registrar and register your domain and any obvious variations on it. You shouldn't be paying more than $10 a year for each, and at that, it pays to prevent poachers.
  15. Protect your brand. A U.S. trademark or service mark costs $325. It's a drop in the bucket compared to trying to defend it later. It's not really necessary, though, for a small local business.

Tips:

  1. Avoid generic names based on names, such as Joe's Bar, Sam's Hardware, etc. They're not memorable and are nearly impossible to trademark.
  2. Avoid generic names that literally describe the product or service, like Computer Consulting Company, Appliance Sales and Service, Inc., etc.
  3. Generally, avoid geographical names. Besides not generally being very memorable, what happens if you decide to move or expand? The exception is if you're trying to create a strong local affinity like, say, a neighborhood bar.
  4. Preferably, don't restrict future product or service lines. Be broad enough to include your wildest long-term vision for the business.
  5. Try to keep the name short and easy to pronounce.

What You Need

  • A thesaurus or website such as Thesaurus.com
  • A writing pad and pen
  • Friends for feedback

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